Group lessons…or not
The dance journey is always a gold mine, when we take the time to reflect, for revealing new and old truths about oneself.
A little bit of context – recently during some group classes, I found myself struggling emotionally and tensing up during the classes. What should have been a fun and inexpensive learning experiences with friends had become a personal emotional challenge. I would often walk out of such classes either frustrated or angry – and questioning if I wanted to continue doing group lessons.
Where were those feelings coming from? I like all my fellow dancers, but was I jealous of their success? Did I somehow think my competence as a dancer was being called into question? I love my instructor, so why am I so frustrated with him in group lessons?
And after several entries in my journal, I began to uncover what was underneath the emotional roller coaster. The good news – I am not jealous – I am actually thrilled when a friend masters a figure or new technique. Group lessons can be an opportunity for additional bonding and deepening friendships with fellow dancers.
On the other hand, I have also discovered that some of the teaching techniques in group lessons don’t necessarily lend themselves to how I best learn. For example, in a group lesson, we can theoretically learn from watching each other – especially when someone has mastered a technique, etc. This learning from watching others is also why so many folks gravitate to videos.
The downside, though, is we don’t all master movements at the same pace or in the same way. So watching another dance student in a live class (as opposed to watching a professional on a video) can potentially lead to comparisons with oneself that actually erodes, rather than enhances, self-confidence.
Upon reflection, I was reminded that I learn best by doing first – having the technique or movement presented in micro chunks that I can feel in my body and use my body to experience. Watching others without having had the personal physical experience isn’t generally helpful as I can’t always identify what they are doing differently to master the figure or technique. So to honor my own learning process while participating in group lessons, I have started to ask for what I need.
Finally, the “duh” factor – communication is key in getting past tensions or blocks in a group lesson – sharing feelings of frustration between instructor and student can open one up to acknowledging our vulnerability and humanness – and increase connection as well as self-confidence.
So, am I still going to group lessons? You bet – not only are they great learning experiences on multiple levels, they are really fun experiences with great friends.